Waubra Foundation Conversation with AGL Ltd

At the time of the formation of the Waubra Foundation, Australia’s oldest public company, AGL Limited, often considered the very model of a modern corporate citizen, already had wind developments in operation. These wind developments were known as the Hallett group of Wind Developments, in the mid north of South Australia.

By July 2010 when Sarah Laurie joined the Foundation, AGL were involved in litigation commenced by residents already tormented by noise from Hallett 2 at Mt Bryan. These residents, led by diesel mechanic Bill Quinn, wished to prevent the same noise torture occurring for the residents of the township of Hallett, who would have been impacted by the proposed Hallett 3. Bill’s mother, child, grandchild and his own household were among those already impacted adversely by the wind turbine acoustic pollution, as well as neighbour Andy Thomas, a fifth generation farmer who lived nearby.

The Foundation soon learned of the impacts of subsequent AGL wind developments, including Oaklands Hill, near Glenthompson in Western Victoria (AGL now manages this for Challenger Life) and more recently the infamous Macarthur wind development in Western Victoria near Hamilton. 

The Foundation began a dialogue with AGL in 2010, believing that upon learning of the real damage of which their industrial machines were capable, management would take remedial action (e.g., closing down turbines at night and mounting independent research on the energy emitted by turbines); and directors would be alarmed at the likelihood of damaging impacts on neighbours, this being a safety, human rights and a moral issue. 

AGL was not responsive nor indeed curious about what we knew, although they did invite one of our directors to appear on a panel at an in-house Managers’ conference.  

The Hallett 3 legal appeal initiated by a group of residents and continued by Bill Quinn in various court hearings did create some grief for AGL after the Supreme Court Judges of SA sent the case back to the ERD court, and Justice Cole required AGL to provide actual noise and wind mast data relating to their wind development at Mt Bryan (Hallett 2). A couple of days before AGL were due to present that data to the Court, AGL withdrew completely from the Hallett 3 appeal against the original local council planning approval initiated by the residents, and did not go ahead with the planned development “for commercial reasons”.  

The large Macarthur project was always going to be a problem given the scale of the project, the topography of the site and the upsizing of the turbines from those approved in the original Planning Permit. Subsequent acoustic assessment and some detailed mapping is now suggesting that the turbines may be more closely spaced than the manufacturer’s specifications, which will inevitably increase the wind turbine generated noise, turbulence and infrasound, and increase the stress on the components including blades, with known increased risk of catastrophic failures.

The Foundation implored AGL to consider the health implications for Macarthur residents before it was built, but our plea fell on deaf ears. The resulting problems at Macarthur captured by Mrs Anne Schafer’s preliminary population survey in August 2013 were predictable, preventable, and will only significantly worsen with more serious ill health and home abandonments with ongoing exposure.

AGL advises regional doctors how to treat patients complaining about adverse health effects

In November, 2012 AGL’s Community Engagement Manager, Amanda Shaw, wrote to Macarthur Community Health advising the Doctors how to treat patients who present complaining of adverse health effects, following the start up of the industrial wind project at Macarthur.

It is understood that a similar letter was sent to most medical practices in the vicinity of the Macarthur wind project.

AGL concludes: “If you feel it would be beneficial, we would appreciate your assistance where appropriate in directing any concerned patients to our project website agl.com.au/macarthur or our dedicated Community Engagement team……”

Download AGL’s letter to the Macarthur Community Health clinic →

The Waubra Foundation is not saying AGL’s attitude is unique amongst wind project developers, but AGL is a large, iconic Australian company that the Foundation thought might be more amenable to reason than some of the others. Its directors are well connected – for example one current director is the Chancellor of Sydney University, the same university which is protecting against multiple and recurring complaints a Public Health Professor, who is most active in supporting the wind industry.

Warning not to resume night-time operation of turbines at Oaklands Hill facility, Glenthompson, Victoria ignored.

February – May 2015. The Foundation’s former Chair Mr Peter Mitchell endeavours to engage the AGL board to prevent six turbines, previously shut down at night, from resuming operation. Visit the page and read the letters here: http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/mitchell-p-letter-directors-agl-re-oaklands-hill-turbines-at-glenthompson-victoria/

The correspondence between The Foundation and AGL continues. We believe the following record will be of interest to many.

Waubra Foundation CEO to Chairman of AGL December 22, 2010 →

Waubra Foundation to Chair and Board of AGL May 16, 2011 →

AGL Construction Manager J Trompf to Waubra Foundation May 26, 2011→

Waubra Foundation to individual AGL Directors June 6, 2011→

AGL Company Secretary P McWilliams to Waubra Foundation, June 27, 2011→

Waubra Foundation Administrator to AGL Company Secretary, July 7, 2011→

Waubra Foundation Chairman to AGL Chairman March 14, 2012→

Waubra Foundation Chairman to AGL Chairman April, 2012→

Waubra Foundation Chairman to J Trompf AGL, February 12, 2014→

Waubra Foundation Chairman to AGL Chairman 31 March, 2014 →